Three Years…

Dear Hoop,

This coming Saturday marks three years since your death. Three years of replaying every last conversation we had. Three years of seeing you through my rearview mirror as you buckled up the kids and said good-bye for the last time. Three years of watching you live and breathe in our kids. Three years of questioning your actions. Three years of living with my guilt.

But this year I had decided to ignore the anniversary. I’ve moved on (didn’t you get the memo?). I am happy. I have an amazing life.  I am so fucking balanced that acrobats and accountants are wondering how I do it. (stop laughing, it’s true..mostly.)

Yet somehow you have managed to slip into my subconscious.  Despite my best efforts, you have snuck past my mental roadblocks and have invaded my dreams. For weeks now I’ve been tormented with the most horrendous nightmares that I’ve decided to just stop sleeping all together (The local coffee shops can thank you for the influx in sales).  I won’t go into the gory details (’cause obviously you already know them) but for real… STOP IT!!!!

And I’m not the only one feeling you this week.  Sunday was like all of us were PMSing on steroids.  Even Lucy was hissing at everyone that walked past her.  We didn’t have to mention your name or reveal the impending date but it was there.

Last night at dinner I was casually talking about our upcoming weekend plans when Moxie looked me straight up and said, “but what about Daddy-Day?”

God dammit.

Oh right, D-Day. You remembered.

Deep breath. That’s okay, I do better when I’m not in the elephant’s shadow anyway.

Me: Of course we can do something to remember Dad. Let’s think about some options. But in the meantime, do either of you want to talk about it or do you have any questions?

Her: Well I learned a lot about depression when I wrote my speech and I know that there are lots of kinds of depression so I’m just wondering… what kind of depression did Dad have? I mean.. he didn’t seem depressed?

Me: You mean he didn’t seem sad?

Her: yeah.. how is that depression? Wasn’t he really happy?

*Insert an hour of me rambling on about how you WERE so happy when you were with them and how much you loved playing with them and how all of that happiness was so very real….despite the fact that underneath, you suffered from depression.  Sweet Jesus, I really wish you’d left me a guidebook or at least an FAQ list of how to answer their top 5 questions.

So we made a rough plan to do something to remember you on Sunday (’cause sorry, it’s not all about you and our Saturday is already scheduled).  It will probably involve food.  And it will probably involve some sort of activity where we share stories and send messages to you.  And it may involve some sort of exorcism to get you outta my subconscious.  But we will take some time to remember you.

And rest assured. you continue to be missed. every day. no matter what date it is.

 

xo

e

Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll
#TeamAdventurers

 

Important Resources (because although I can speak about my own personal experience, I am NOT an expert):

If you are currently supporting a loved one with mental illness, please, seek out expert support.  Find support for your loved one and for yourself.

If YOU are considering suicide at this time, please, I urge you to call a crisis line in your area.

 

related previously posted:

Dear Jerk.

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

Approaching Doomsday

Unicorns – by Moxie

 

 

 

 

I run to lose weight….(wait for it…)

I got home from an exceptionally long Monday & was on the brink of shrugging off my originally planned run. Excuses were there for the taking: I was tired. (Yeah I know..join the club). I’d already missed the last 4 days..what’s one more? I can’t leave the kids for another 30 minutes, that’s poor parenting. (Psst…they’re too busy playing outside with their friends to notice). I’ve pretty much lost my layer of hibernation so what’s the point? 

Then I read a post by Jennifer Pastiloff who, looking fierce AF stated, “I exercise because if I don’t, I’m a mess.” #preach 

Running clothes on & out the door I started to think about why I run and realized it IS to lose weight. The kind of weight that sits in my mind. It’s not clutter or cobwebs or dustbunnies. It’s heavy & makes it hard to move. It’s atrophic. Being outside alone with my thoughts & minimal distraction helps me shake that shit loose. I practice my own style of active meditation (even though I like to insist I suck at meditation). I come home clearer. And lighter. 

Side benefit is setting a good example for the kids about how to deal with daily stress & anxiety. Had I not gone running, I most likely would have poured a glass of wine for dinner &/or scrolled through social media numbing my brain. And let’s be honest, I still might pour a glass of wine & tada here I am on social media..cause (thank Gawd) I’m not perfect but I’ve managed to changed the tone of my evening. 

I’m not fast. Nor do I typically run more than 5km at a time. But this is not a contest. And even though I’m not trying to win anything, I gain so much …. by losing this weight. 

Thanks for the reminder Jennifer!!! 

How do you lose that extra weight in your mind?

xo,
e

(Ps-how lucky am I to have this gorgeous lake to run around?!?!)

twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7

instagram: @pixiepaperdoll

March is for madness.

 

I don’t know about you but I am not at my best in March. All of my strategies to get through the long dark winter have been tossed aside along with the chip wrappers, wine bottles and dirty casserole dishes. I’m tired. I’m hiding an extra layer of fat under my sweat pants and tights. I feel gross. It’s become painfully clear that once again, I will not be dashing away for a hot weather, scuba adventure. I am bored and even worse…I am boring. I have nothing to talk to anyone about except for my own misery which makes me retreat from everyone to save us all my moaning.

Having said all of that, you may not believe me when I tell you that I actually consider myself a fairly enlightened person. I spend time in gratitude every morning before getting out of bed and set my intentions for the day. I walk to work and spend my lunch hours power walking by the water listening to uplifting podcasts. In fact, in a recent attempt to make the best of this lull in my life, I decided to throw myself into active waiting, a term I learned from Danielle LaPorte podcasts. While waiting for nicer weather, I started tackling some of the winter house projects that have been accumulating on my to do list.

If I can organize my entire house, redecorate rooms, create every meal from scratch, work full-time, care for both of my children, ensure all household chores are done to perfection, find time for close friends and spend at least one or two evenings/week with my bf, then I’m winning right? IF I can pull all of that off, then maybe I’ll be less gross and boring.

Or maybe instead I will become completely overwhelmed, have a house full of half-finished projects and dwell on all the areas in my life where I am failing, which now also includes active waiting.

*insert sad monologue about the disappointment of not being able to do it all

Lately the biggest feeling of failure for me has been in the parenting department. Because while I’ve been struggling to keep afloat in my lifeboat, my kids have been floating along beside me. (Thank God they are good sports and good swimmers!)

We’ve always been a tight team and I try to keep a strong connection with them. I spend about 10 minutes of 1:1 time with each of them every morning, we eat a (mostly) home cooked meal together every day and we read aloud together every night before bed. But even still I constantly worry that they spend too much time on their electronics, feel immense guilt when I don’t have time to play cards when they ask, and have no idea what goes on in the mind of a teenage boy. I don’t know if it’s their ages, my schedule or my anxiety-driven imagination but I worry that we are losing our connection.

Last week I decided to take action and booked a cottage for the following weekend. We needed to get out of our daily routine and shake things up. I wanted to be fully present with them, without the distraction of life.

On Friday I loaded the car with our comfiest clothes, board games, books, art supplies, journals, a cooler full of quick and easy meals and a hopeful heart and we drove 2.5 hours north to our little cottage retreat.

And for the entire weekend, I was entirely present and available to my kids.

We watched movies together. We played umpteen hands of gin rummy, board games, and scrabble stopping only to meander to the mini fridge for more snacks. We explored by the water without having to rush so I could get home and start dinner. And when we wanted time alone, we created art and read books.

It was bliss.

Now that we’ve reconnected and I feel assured that they feel assured that I am available to them, the next step is to keep this momentum alive. It’s completely unrealistic to take a vacation every time I want to spend uninterrupted time with them. And despite the fridge magnet that says, a messy house is full of memories, it’s also full of anxiety ridden chaos which makes it just as unrealistic to stop cleaning.

So instead I will simply acknowledge that there will continue to be highs and lows along this journey. There will be moments when I feel I have it all together and others where you’ll find me under my covers eating ice cream.

The good news is that warm weather is on the horizon and no one is ever boring while wearing sundresses and flower crowns.

Be grateful. Be present. and it will be okay.

(But really….what actually goes on in the mind of a 13 year old boy?)

xoxo,

e

#TeamAdventureres

@pixiepaperdoll7 (twitter)

@pixiepaperdoll (Instagram)

 

PS.

This beautiful song kept coming on my playlist while we were away and it definitely needs to be shared. Rain and Moxie, you are and will always be, safe and sound with me.

 Safe and Sound – Hawksley Workman

 

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Exploring. Of course they both fell into the lake. Don’t worry, it was shallow.

Sunshine gives me superpowers.

I woke up this morning before 6am.  I felt more awake than I had in months. I felt refreshed. I felt like my skin was going to explode in energy.

As I let this feeling wash through me I recited my gratitude list, which was soon backed up by the harmonies of the honking geese flying past my open window.

“I am thankful to wake up to the sounds of nature.”

I wanted to leap from my bed.  I wanted to do everything. All at once.  I wanted to go everywhere. Nothing could stop me.

The cold cloud had lifted and the sun, the glorious warm sun, had returned.

After months of being frozen to my couch, dreading any outing that required me to wear real pants, I was suddenly daydreaming of sundresses on patios (and although dresses are still not technically pants, they are much prettier and happier than my sweats).

I felt free.

It was contagious.

My kids eagerly walked a 2 hour journey with me. They explored the patterns of melting ice while I positioned myself in the direct path of the sun’s rays.  I stared at the dark blue water in front of me until hypnotized by the sparkles which danced in the waves.  Surrounded by snow and ice, I felt complete warmth and nourishment from the sun. I planted myself to the ground, drawing its energy into me.

Wonderwoman. Wildflower. Willow. Me.

xo

e

@pixiepaperdoll7

#TeamAdventurers

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Ice fishing in a stream with a skipping rope.

Ice fishing in a stream with a skipping rope.

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Hurrah! At last I’m 40!

*Preface: As I write this, I feel all of my 40 years. I took off on my bike to find a quiet place to write and my knees are super achy from my (very rare these days) morning run + 3 days of gardening (yes, I was delighted to spend my May long weekend at home playing in dirt and plants).  Also, I had to choose a place to write that was close enough to home that I could get back for when, inevitably, I have to pee (I’m partly blaming childbirth on this one!)

40.

A new Decade.

I like the sound of that.

It’s not that my 30s were terrible. There were some definite highlights:

I gave birth to my 2nd child, Moxie and have immensely enjoyed spending this past decade with her and her older brother, Rain. 

I traveled. I had developed the desire to travel (alone) when I was 26 and spent almost 3 months with my backpack throughout Guatemala, Honduras and Belize.  In my 30s, I explored more of the region in Costa Rica (10 day adventure tour) and Nicaragua (a week of scuba diving on my favourite place in the world, Little Corn Island).  I embarked on a supa-dupa-triple-fun solo road trip throughout the Maritimes and landed in Fredericton at my besties Beth and Joe’s wedding.  Speaking of road-trips, I drove the kids from Mississauga across Canada to Vancouver Island and then down to Seattle.  We met up with great friends and a family along the way.  (Kim, Dottie, Tim, Joel, Andrew, Leanne, Carmanah, Tuna, guard dogs, chickens, and Jill – thanks for opening your homes and hearts to us) It was a trip of a lifetime!

I distinctly remember turning 30 (which I guess I should, it’s only been 10 years..and 40’s not *that* old..). I was 7 months pregnant and living a life that fit me like a beautiful wool turtleneck. It looked so perfect from the outside but inside it felt uncomfortable and constricting. It didn’t fit and it was unraveling.

Two years later, I was a single mom. I had made a decision to leave 95% of all my friends and belongings so that I could start again. 

If my previous life had been a sweater, this new phase was like running around topless. It felt free and terrifying and yet I was suddenly quite comfortable in my own skin.

I had no idea what I was doing and I made a ridiculous amount of mistakes (daily).

But I was doing it. On my own. With my kids. We were a team. We were Team Adventurers!

Just as things were becoming familiar and comfortable, we lost their father to suicide. This shifted all of our journeys in life. It still does. 

Last year, I started dating K and we quickly decided to join families in Peterborough. The kids and I needed a change and I liked the idea of what Peterborough had to offer as a small, artsy community (confession: The first time I ever visited Peterborough was when K and I signed our lease. I tend to move through life on gut feelings.)  So I quit my job and we rented a gorgeous house near the water within walking distance to downtown and easily adapted to our new surroundings.

We all felt completely at home in Ptbo, but combining families is apparently more difficult that I had thought and by the end of 2015, I was a single mom again.  Only this time, I was in a new community, had no job, and was recovering from open hernia surgery.

This is when I start running around looking for that sweater again.

Thankfully, I didn’t find it.  

And thankfully, I am surrounded by amazing friends and family (old and new). You all deserve gold stars in supportive friendmanship.

Since then, I have gained employment (though my contract is up next month, if anyone has any leads…), purchased our home (thanks for your help Mom and Dad), and started dating K again. .. only slower.

The kids are thriving and I am in love with showing them small community ways of life (I was raised in a community of 2,600 so Ptbo is more in line with my roots).

Life is good.

This is exactly how I want to start my 40s.

Now I feel like I should offer some sort of old age wisdom…… Or is that what you do when you turn 50?

Let me share some of the things I’ve learned (the hard way), particularly in my 30s.

  • Break up with word “should”. Do not believe that you should have to act, think, feel, dress a certain way. If that sweater doesn’t fit, take it off. And don’t get caught up in what should or shouldn’t happen. Trust me, they happen.  Or they don’t. That’s just it.
  • You are only responsible for your own happiness. Be kind. Be respectful. Be responsible for your actions. But don’t obsess over the happiness of others. You are not responsible for the happiness of your friends, colleagues, random people you meet on the street, your family and not even your kids. Happiness is an inside gig and they will have to figure it out on their own. Just as you will have to do the same. Do what makes you happy.
  • Enjoy your own company. Yearn for it. Make it a priority. Make friends with the voice inside your head. She’s pretty dang cool. And this voice will stay with you and keep you company for the rest of your days.

Music break!

“If I get old I’m living easy

Find a nice old country home.

Let the land do what she wants to

Leave her wild and overgrown.

And when I’m sure my days are numbered,

Find a nice place in the fields.

And thank that little voice inside my head

For such great company.”

~Elliott Brood, If I get Old

  • Be real with yourself.  Life is not perfect nor does it have to look that way. It’s messy and gorgeous and sometimes a lot of the time, it’s really fucking hard. Experience every emotion unapologetically. And don’t trust people who are always telling you to smile.
  • Lastly, make goals. And as cheese bread as it sounds, write them down. This is where I struggle. I can think of hundreds of things I want to do but putting it to paper scares the bejeebers out of me. I used to think that it was because I had commitment issues. (I even wrote about them: http://commuterlit.com/2012/05/monday-the-empty-space/) And maybe that’s partly true. I have also blamed my limited attention span – squirrel!! But I think I’m most afraid of fucking up. What if I never get to check it off the list? What if I fail? I mean, I guess I could write new/revised goals…but what would my journal think??  *Sigh… My goal for my 40s is to write down my goals.

So that’s it – thanks for being part of my new decade celebration – let’s go for a drink sometime! But for now….. I have to pee!!!

xoxoxo,

e

@pixiepaperdoll7

Shit is getting real

 Erica Richmond

@pixiepaperdoll7

Team Adventurers are about to embark on our biggest and most exciting adventure yet – We are joining families with my dreamy beau, Keith & his cool kid Kai, and we are moving to Peterborough, Ontario!!!

Making the decision to move was the easy part, getting the house ready to sell on the other hand has been … well.. let’s go with ‘hectic’.

In the last month or so, I have spent a lot of time (read: a gazillion hours) purging and sorting through all of our earthly possessions. As I sit here contemplating whether I should keep this mirror or give away that bowl I am consciously aware of three things :

  1. How much crap one (or 3 ones) can accumulate in the 5 years since living in this house.
  2. How much I have changed (as a person, as a parent, as a lover, as a friend) in the past 6 years since separating from my ex.
  3. The physical contrast that exists between my previous move which had felt so heart-wrenchingly heavy and this move that feels so light and exhilarating.

This process has brought me back to one of my favourite pieces I’ve written. Six years ago last October marked the definitive life-changing time when I chose to leave almost everything (friends, possessions and even some family) for the sake of my spirit and the hope of peace and solidity for those (mainly my kids) who kept near to me.

My remaining tight circle of friends and family supported us with a landslide of pre-loved odds and ends, which kept our first home-on-our-own  furnished and functional. A year later when the kids and I moved into our current and more spacious home I was tasked with searching for some missing living room pieces.

Previously published by Commuter Lit: http://commuterlit.com/2012/05/monday-the-empty-space/

The Empty Space
Erica Richmond

There’s an empty space where a couch should be and perhaps it is a metaphor … for something.

Perhaps this space is an acknowledgement of my suspected commitment issues. After all there is a very good chance that this next couch could be a part of our family for the rest of my life; passed down to the next generations landing in the common room of a small Northern Ontario university residence. It will appear in countless family photographs and receive multiple tags on Face Book. And I have only enough space to commit to one couch. One couch to last a lifetime.

And so plans to occupy this space are quickly thwarted: not enough money, not enough time, not enough selection. Even the sight of furniture stores leaves me gasping to release the anxiety that has filled my lungs.

The same feeling I once experienced on a first date with a hopeful young daydreamer who went into detail describing his future wedding.  By the time he listed his groomsmen I think I was purple. I couldn’t date for an entire year after that.

Perhaps this space serves as a reminder of how I started.

Of how I left.

Of how leaving was all that mattered.

Of how I learned to let go of all things that do not hold a place in my heart and even some things that do.

Of how the thought of forgetting terrifies me more than remembering.

And even though I’ve re-acquired belongings; this empty space remains … as a metaphor … for something.

And yes, we truly did live in this house for about 3 years without any living room furniture. My friends will remember the winter that I dragged my outside lawn furniture into the living room (along with some hibernating spiders, I’m sure) and the kids I got a glimpse of what sitting on pseudo furniture is like. It was kind of nice.  Luckily I was spared having to make any further sufficating trips to furniture stores because my good friends continued to show their love and were kind enough to pass along their lovely gently used pieces, which have since made the living space more livable.

Flash forward six years to the present, where I’ve accumulated more furniture and household possessions than I care to admit and more than I care to move.

But what about those commitment issues you (and everyone else who knows me) may ask? Simple. I just wasn’t ready then. And I’m so fucking proud of myself that I recognized that.  I didn’t rush anything or feel like I needed someone to save me or complete me. I didn’t cave to societal pressures. I knew what I needed and I took the time required to meet those needs.  I needed that time on my own. With my kids. I needed to sort my own shit out before introducing anyone else into my life. It was all part of my amazing journey to get to where I am now. And I wouldn’t change a segment of that highway.

And at some point during the journey, it became clear that not only the rooms in my house were getting full, but that metaphorical empty space was no longer empty either. Keith came by at just the right time and hot damn, he’s certainly overflowed our lives with a mutual abundance of love that we never knew existed. No anxiety. No turning purple.  And I tag him on FaceBook with gusto.

I will never (nor should never) forget about my past but I have my sights facing forward and am so incredibly ready for this grand new adventure!

I’ve been waiting and saving it all ..

https://youtu.be/9HCDV5APkFY